Recursion - Blake Crouch Page 0,1

moves to jump, he’ll try to save her, and if he contracts FMS in the process, so be it. That’s the risk you take becoming a cop.

“How long have you had it?” he asks.

“One morning, about a month ago, instead of my home in Middlebury, Vermont, I was suddenly in an apartment here in the city, with a stabbing pain in my head and a terrible nosebleed. At first, I had no idea where I was. Then I remembered…this life too. Here and now, I’m single, an investment banker, I live under my maiden name. But I have…”—she visibly braces herself against the emotion—“memories of my other life in Vermont. I was a mother to a nine-year-old boy named Sam. I ran a landscaping business with my husband, Joe Behrman. I was Ann Behrman. We were as happy as anyone has a right to be.”

“What does it feel like?” Barry asks, taking a clandestine step closer.

“What does what feel like?”

“Your false memories of this Vermont life.”

“I don’t just remember my wedding. I remember the fight over the design for the cake. I remember the smallest details of our home. Our son. Every moment of his birth. His laugh. The birthmark on his left cheek. His first day of school and how he didn’t want me to leave him. But when I try to picture Sam, he’s in black and white. There’s no color in his eyes. I tell myself they were blue. I only see black.

“All my memories from that life are in shades of gray, like film noir stills. They feel real, but they’re haunted, phantom memories.” She breaks down. “Everyone thinks FMS is just false memories of the big moments of your life, but what hurts so much more are the small ones. I don’t just remember my husband. I remember the smell of his breath in the morning when he rolled over and faced me in bed. How every time he got up before I did to brush his teeth, I knew he’d come back to bed and try to have sex. That’s the stuff that kills me. The tiniest, perfect details that make me know it happened.”

“What about this life?” Barry asks. “Isn’t it worth something to you?”

“Maybe some people get FMS and prefer their current memories to their false ones, but there’s nothing about this life I want. I’ve tried, for four long weeks. I can’t fake it anymore.” Tears carve trails through her eyeliner. “My son never existed. Do you get that? He’s just a beautiful misfire in my brain.”

Barry ventures another step toward her, but she catches him this time.

“Don’t come any closer.”

“You are not alone.”

“I am very fucking alone.”

“I’ve only known you a few minutes, and I will be devastated if you do this. Think about the people in your life who love you. Think how they’ll feel.”

“I tracked Joe down,” Ann says.


“My husband. He was living in a mansion out on Long Island. He acted like he didn’t recognize me, but I know he did. He had a whole other life. He was married—I don’t know to who. I don’t know if he had kids. He acted like I was crazy.”

“I’m sorry, Ann.”

“This hurts too much.”

“Look, I’ve been where you are. I’ve wanted to end everything. And I’m standing here right now telling you I’m glad I didn’t. I’m glad I had the strength to ride it out. This low point isn’t the book of your life. It’s just a chapter.”

“What happened to you?”

“I lost my daughter. Life has broken my heart too.”

Ann looks at the incandescent skyline. “Do you have photos of her? Do you still talk with people about her?”


“At least she once existed.”

There is simply nothing he can say to that.

Ann looks down through her legs again. She kicks off one of her pumps.

Watches it fall.

Then sends the other one plummeting after it.

“Ann, please.”

“In my previous life, my false life, Joe’s first wife, Franny, jumped from this building, from this ledge actually, fifteen years ago. She had clinical depression. I know he blamed himself. Before I left his house on Long Island, I told Joe I was going to jump from the Poe Building tonight, just like Franny. It sounds silly and desperate, but I hoped he’d show up here tonight and save me. Like he failed to do for her. At first, I thought you might be him, but he never wore cologne.” She smiles—wistful—then adds, “I’m thirsty.”

Barry glances through the French doors and